Sexual Assault Charges

Calgary Criminal Defence Practices

Sexual Offences in Calgary

Calgary Sexual Assault Defence Practices

Sexual offences/assaults have become increasingly prevalent in the city of Calgary and its surrounding area. While the public often considers a sexual assault to be synonymous with rape, such is not always the case. A sexual assault is defined as a non-consensual application of force that is sexual in nature.

Our Court of Appeal has recently stated that a sexual assault covers a wide range of prohibited actions from a stolen kiss to the worst forms of human degradation. With the large variation in charges for this subject, our sexual offence lawyers have years of experience to best help you.

The largest component of our practice is the defence of individuals charged with sexual offences. Very few charges carry the stigma and jeopardy associated with sexual assault allegations. The consequences flowing from a conviction are substantial and will often involve jail as well as a sexual offender designation. The stakes are truly high and the prosecutions are unlike any other Criminal Code.

What constitutes a sexual assault allegation?

The term sexual assault is very broad and encompasses a wide variety of conduct. While the public often consider a sexual assault to be synonymous with a rape, such is not always the case. An assault is defined as a non-consensual application of force. When the touching occurs with a sexual intent, it becomes a sexual assault. Our Court of Appeal has has stated that a sexual assault covers a wide range of prohibited actions from a stolen kiss to the worst forms of human degradation.

As this area of the law has developed, these prosecutions have resulted in numerous pre-trial applications to determine the scope of cross-examination. Sexual allegations are unique as permission from the Court must be sought to cross-examine the complainant on certain points. Further, issues such as consent, mistaken belief of consent, prior consistent statements, and recent fabrication can be confusing when first encountered. This is why retaining experienced defence counsel is so imperative when facing this most serious of charges. In a sexual prosecution, nothing can be left to chance and competent counsel is a must.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a sexual assault different from the offence of assault?

  • An assault is defined in the criminal code as a non-consensual application of force. While it is often synonymous with strikes and blows, an assault can constitute unwanted contact with some degree of force. Non-consensual touching is also a required element in the offence of sexual assault. An assault becomes a sexual offense if the touching has some sexual component. Sexual assaults are routinely treated more seriously by the Courts than the offence of common assault.

Why are sexual assault charges treated differently than other offences?

  • Amendments to the Criminal Code has greatly changed the manner in which sexual assault charges are defended. Consent has and always will be a prevailing issue in a sexual assault trial. The onus falls to the Crown prove the absence of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. Prior to the amendments, Defence counsel would routinely introduce evidence pertaining to the complainant’s prior sexual history in order to demonstrate that she was less worthy of belief. In response to this tactic, Parliament amended the Criminal Code to place limits on questioning regarding prior sexual activity. The code now prohibits such questioning in the absence of a pre-trial application. Section 276 governs the procedure by which the application occurs and written argument concerning the proposed evidence and its relevance to the trial are required. Suffice it to say that counsel partaking in the defence of such cases must be well versed on the relevant parameters of questioning as well as the needed applications that must be made well in advance of trial. An absence of such knowledge can be fatal in mounting a successful defence.

Is there a statute of limitations for sexual offences?

  • In Canada, no statute of limitations exists with respect to Criminal Code offences that are prosecuted by way of indictment. As such, we routinely represent individuals that have been charged with historical sexual allegations. These are allegations where the purported offences are said to have taken place years prior. While the prosecution of these allegations is permitted, special care is required in mounting a defence. One of the primary difficulties stems from locating potential witnesses that can corroborate the client’s version of events from many years ago. As our office routinely deals with these types of cases, meticulous preparation is required, often resulting in employing the services of a private investigator to assist.

What are the consequences of a conviction?

  • Sexual assault is one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code. A conviction will result in a criminal record with Crown often seeking incarceration for a first time offender. Depending upon the charge, a number of ancillary orders will issue following a finding of guilt. These include a requirement for the accused to provide a DNA sample to the RCMP’s national database, as well as potential residential and employment restrictions. Of most concern is the requirement for registration with the Sexual Offender Information Registry Act (SOIRA). SOIRA is a nationwide database that was created to assists law enforcement with the investigation of sexual offences. In the event an accused is convicted of a SOIRA designated offence, the presiding judge must issue a SOIRA order which varies in duration from 10 years to life. The duration of the order is dependent upon the type of offence, the quantum of convictions, as well as the manner in which it has been prosecuted (whether it is prosecuted by a summary conviction election or by indictment).